WHAT OTHERS SAY: FEMA should extend housing seven more months

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | 11:05 a.m. CDT

The Federal Emergency Management Agency several times has made note of Joplin's record time in preparing and moving in FEMA trailers for those who lost their homes in the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Now, Joplin's city leaders are asking FEMA to extend the current housing contract with the city, which expires Nov. 9. Seven more months is all the city's asking.

The white, austere trailers initially were home to 585 families who needed shelter. Many quickly found places to live. So far, 420 have been able to find a home or an apartment, with only 166 remaining in the trailer community.

Of that number, 99 families say they will be able to relocate soon. That will leave 67 families who still need a roof over their heads until housing projects have been completed.

We call that amazing.

Recall that the tornado wiped out a large portion of rentals in our town. That included apartment complexes and duplexes with rents set to accommodate the low income.

Also, remember that the economy has compounded the difficulty some families are having in securing loans to purchase a home.

Joplin has made a recovery that is being talked about across the nation. Its residents are resilient and resourceful.

We also know, through numerous interviews, that the vast majority of those who live in the trailer communities at the northeast edge of town are eager to get into homes of their own.

But first they must find one.

Joplin city administrators are asking that the temporary housing be expended for seven months. The Joplin City Council on Sept. 24 voted 8-1 to approve a request that will go to the State Emergency Management Agency, which will be forwarded on to FEMA.

We were surprised that any member of the council would vote against the city administration's request, considering that homes approved for tax credits are still in a variety of states of construction. Many will not be complete until spring.

But, Councilman Bill Scearce, who cast the lone "no" vote, objected, saying that there were people who probably would not leave the housing voluntarily because they are staying there for free.

His inference is an insult to those who are still struggling to pull their lives together. Nor is it accurate. After Nov. 9, FEMA has the authority to start charging rent based on income.

We're not sure where Scearce would have these remaining families live. Last time we looked, Joplin's streets already has more than its share of homeless.

On behalf of those remaining families who lost everything they had on May 22, 2011, we urge FEMA to grant Joplin a seven-month extension.

Copyright The Joplin Globe. Distributed by The Associated Press. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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